A Syrian catering business, run by a group of women refugees, is serving up mouthwatering Syrian dishes to appreciative customers.
Eleven Syrian women have been cooking recipes from their grandmothers, and Egyptians are loving it. An example of successful integration, their story has been featured on the media site Al Monitor.
The Business is called "Zeit Zeitoun" and is located east of Cairo. The women prepare traditional Syrian meals for home delivery and the food has "quickly gained in popularity."
Launched in 2016, the project was aimed at employing Syrian women, especially widows and divorcees, while preserving their Syrian heritage.
The meals are prepared in the early morning, with the women gathering in the kitchen to bake pastries and do preparatory work. They receive up to 10 orders per day, with orders placed 48 hours in advance. Prices start at 400 Egyptian pounds ($23) for 10 meals. The orders are delivered to customers in plastic boxes.
The Facebook page for the project reads, "Traditional Syrian recipes come to life under the expert hands of a group of Syrian women living in Egypt. A mouthwatering mix of colors and flavors brings Syria to Cairo, in a festival of fresh ingredients carefully picked to ensure consistently exquisite dishes, excellent taste and strict hygiene. This is the kind of food you would get if you visited a home in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs or Latakia."
The project's founder, Tamara Rifai, a Syrian human rights lawyer and former Human Rights Watch regional director for media affairs and human rights advocacy in the Middle East and North Africa, was looking for a way to empower these women.
Rifai told Al-Monitor how the project started. "The idea of the project saw the light when I visited the Souriyat Association in Cairo and met the women there.The Souriyat Association seeks to empower women, help them find a livelihood to provide for their families and promote a culture of human rights. We started to prepare recipes using precise ingredients, and it took us a month or a little more to taste the food and set the exact criteria. Each woman has her own way of cooking and her own way of finding quick solutions. We had to make sure the same taste is produced every time without any difference or surprises."
More than 120,000 Syrian refugees are now living in Egypt since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Millions of Syrians have also sought refuge in neighboring Middle Eastern countries. Most of them now live in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, while some have fled to Europe.
The number of Syrian refugees registered in Egypt's Office of Refugee Affairs increased from 115,000 in 2016 to 120,000 by mid-2017. According to the latest data issued by the UNHCR on July 31, the number of Syrian women registered with the organization make up 48.8% of a total 122,203 Syrian refugees in Egypt, as reported by Al Monitor.